Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Construction Zone

Our brains are meaning making machines.

We can see this when we look closely at what happens in our daily experience. Life is going on constantly. Many of ten thousand things that are happening in a given moment we do not even notice. But then something might catch our eye, like a sunset, or our ear, like someone calling our name.

That experience is exactly what it is. Words cannot describe it exactly (or even come close, really). But our brains almost immediately use words to classify the experience--

"What a beautiful sunset!"

"Jane is so nice--she is a really great person."

"That screaming baby is so annoying!"

Our brains then construct a story around the happening, comparing it with an idealized version of what it thinks should be happening. In this way, we are constantly comparining what is going on around us with what we expect to be going on, or, sometimes, with a completely fictional ideal day.

Not surprisingly, what is actually happening is almost always different from what we expect or what we want. And this comparison, of a constructed ideal with what is, creates almost constant suffering. We often interpret this suffering as a personal failing. Perhaps we could have done something different to avoid this. Or maybe someone else should have done something different. We assess whether our lives are worthwhile based on this standard. And when someone suggests that we should "lower our standards" it feels like such a cop out.

But maybe this is not about higher or lower. Maybe for a few moments each day we can simply see life as it is, without comment, without internal dialogue, without an assessment of what it all means. Perhaps, just for a moment, we can let the inexpressible value of life itself shine through.


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